At long last, we made it to the Super Bowl, only to get a rematch of the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers just 4 years later. While there are still some things that will be the same in terms of this being a “rematch,” it feels inappropriate to call it that with how vastly different it’s been since then despite these still being two of the best-run organizations over the last half decade in sports.

Four years ago, the 12-4 Kansas City Chiefs got Patrick Mahomes his first Super Bowl with a 31-20 win over the 13-3 Niners with Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback in 2020. Since then, we’ve had a worldwide pandemic, the Niners have used three different quarterbacks, the Chiefs have been to three Super Bowls, and Travis Kelce is dating the biggest pop star in the world.

A lot has changed since Kansas City scored 21 unanswered points in that February, 2020 win. While they’re the same brands, and coaches, we’re still ultimately getting a brand new matchup. Let’s revisit the rosters of the teams that faced off the first time by group and see how they shake out, for better or for worse, heading into this matchup.

Passing Offense

Kansas City: WORSE

Obviously, Patrick Mahomes is still the man at the helm who you would trust throwing to your next door neighbor at this point, and likely has even improved with the amount of big game experience he’s gotten from 2020 to now. However, the 2020 roster having Tyreek Hill, a prime Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins even getting 98 yards that Super Bowl in contrast to this group is the story of the Super Bowl. The question is whether or not the dip in that group to this group of pass catchers that led the league in drops in Marquez Valdes-Scantling (who made the game-winning catch last week), an inconsistent and older Kelce, and trusting a rookie in Rashee Rice will be too much for Mahomes to be able to points. This playoff run, it hasn’t seemed to matter, but Kansas City has still never scored points with ease.

San Francisco: IMPROVED

The discourse all season has been whether or not Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant in his draft class that walked into one of the easiest offensive situations of all-time with the Kyle Shanahan system that makes it easy on anyone operating it, is actually as good as the stats say he is with the best QBR all year long at 72.7.He may also have the best offensive skill position group in the league and in Shanahan’s history as well, with Christian McCaffrey scoring at least once essentially every game, Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk being elite after the catch, and a blocking and pass-catching animal at tight end in George Kittle.Say what you will about whether or not Purdy would be as successful driving a car that isn’t as fast as this Ferrari in San Francisco, but by comparison to Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance, Nick Mullens, or CJ Beathard, no one has ever operated it with as much skill as he has.The discourse is irrelevant if we never find out.

Rushing Offense:

Kansas City: IMPROVED

The Chiefs rushing attack on the 2020 team wasn’t necessarily egregious- Damien Williams put up 104 yards in their Super Bowl win, but unlocking Isaiah Pacheco out of the 7th round who looks like he’s trying to pound his cleats as hard as he possibly can into the turf with every rush paired with Clyde Edwards-Helaire as a second option has given them a top-5 rushing attack in yards per game this season, and one that was needed all year long with the regression in passing offense.

Photo: Mark Humphrey (AP)

San Francisco: IMPROVED

With all due respect to Raheem Mostert who just had a career year in San Francisco, adding Christian McCaffrey who could potentially be a Hall of Famer with Elijah Mitchell as a worthwhile backup has never been a more perfect fit for an offensive scheme.

Passing Defense

Kansas City: IMPROVED

While the 2019 roster had Tyrann Mathieu and a top-10 passing defense in the league, this team is allowing even fewer yards in the secondary with the playmakers they’ve added to invest in their defense since allocating assets there at only 176.5 yards per game.Chris Jones as an elite pass-rusher that only gets better as the game goes on, second overall in pass-rush win rate, is going to be a game-changer next to George Karlaftis. If they bothered Lamar as much as they did last week, imagine what they’ll do against a less-mobile Purdy.

San Francisco: WORSE

It isn’t quite saying much aside from that 2019 Niners team was the #1 passing defense in the league by more than ten yards per game. While they have a significant amount of that defense still here, and Fred Warner wasn’t near as talented as he is now as a generational linebacker, that was a team that also had DeForest Buckner, Jimmie Ward, Richard Sherman, and Kwon Alexander. After Jared Goff made it look easy in the first half, it’s going to come down to whether or not they can take away the sideline throw away from Mahomes and force him to throw over the middle to their elite linebacking core that wreaks havoc.

Rushing Defense:

Kansas City: IMPROVED

This was not a high bar to clear with the Chiefs having a bottom-10 rush defense in 2019 compared to this Steve Spagnuola defensive front that limited Lamar Jackson and the best rushing offense in the NFL to 81 yards, and everyone that was not named Lamar had just 27 total.

San Francisco: IMPROVED

While it looked like David Montgomery and Jahmyr Gibbs just ran all over this Niners team, make no mistake about it- San Francisco allows less than 100 yards rushing per game. Part of that likely has to do with getting ahead early and forcing other teams to play from behind, but Bosa, Hargrave, Kinlaw, and adding Chase Young (who did have a viral clip of a lack of effort last week that was a red flag, but I digress) is one of the best fronts in the league.


Kansas City: WORSE

The Chiefs in 2019 were a darling- Mahomes was looking like a bright star to be the successor of Tom Brady and the Patriots after losing a heart-breaker to them in the AFC Championship prior. Andy Reid hadn’t had a Super Bowl yet. They were winning games in dazzling fashion in ways that you felt like you were seeing something special each game.

Now, this has been known as the worst Chiefs team in what is a dynasty, and they’re still in the Super Bowl. The story has been how vulnerable they have been all season due to their lack of weapons, yet here they are. There’s an army of Swifties backing them that will go to war, but the fatigue around the Chiefs as they’ve lived long enough to become the villain is paramount.

San Francisco: IMPROVED

This IS San Francisco’s best team in the Shanahan regime, and they’re also playing with the awareness that it won’t mean a thing until they finally get the ring and right their wrongs. There are veterans in the room that will go to war for Purdy and there’s an urgency where it feels like everything is too perfect to fail unlike when Jimmy G felt like a serious question in the past.

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